Maria Lasitskene

Athlete Profile

  • COUNTRY
    Authorised Neutral Athlete Authorised Neutral Athlete
  • DATE OF BIRTH
    14 JAN 1993
Maria Kuchina in the high jump at the IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015 (Getty Images)

Personal Best - Outdoor

Performance Wind Place Date
High Jump 2.06 Lausanne (Pontaise) 06 JUL 2017

Personal Best - Indoor

Performance Wind Place Date
High Jump 2.03 Moskva (CSKA) 21 FEB 2017

Progression - Outdoor

High Jump

Performance Place Date
2017 2.06 Lausanne (Pontaise) 06 JUL
2016 2.00 Zhukovskiy (Meteor) 21 JUL
2015 2.01 Bruxelles (Boudewijnstadion) 11 SEP
2015 2.01 Beijing (National Stadium) 29 AUG
2014 2.00 Zürich (Letzigrund) 28 AUG
2014 2.00 Paris Saint-Denis (Stade de France) 05 JUL
2013 1.96 Kazan 12 JUL
2012 1.89 Cheboksary 20 JUN
2011 1.95 Tallinn (Kadriorg) 24 JUL
2010 1.91 Penza 07 JUL
2009 1.87 Doha 09 DEC
2008 1.83 Vladimir 27 JUN
2008 1.83 Krasnodar 05 JUN

Progression - Indoor

High Jump

Performance Place Date
2017 2.03 Moskva (CSKA) 21 FEB
2016 1.98 Moskva (CSKA) 14 FEB
2015 1.99 Moskva (CSKA) 01 FEB
2014 2.01 Stockholm (Globe Arena) 06 FEB
2013 1.98 Gateshead 23 JUN
2012 1.96 Vendryne 30 JAN
2011 1.97 Trinec 26 JAN

Honours - High Jump

Rank Mark Wind Place Date
IAAF World Championships London 2017 1 2.03 London (Olympic Stadium) 12 AUG 2017
15th IAAF World Championships 1 2.01 Beijing (National Stadium) 29 AUG 2015
2nd IAAF Continental Cup 2014 1 1.99 Marrakech (Le Grande Stade) 14 SEP 2014
IAAF World Indoor Championships 2014 1 2.00 Sopot (Ergo Arena) 08 MAR 2014
14th IAAF World Junior Championships 3 1.88 Barcelona (Estadio Olímpico) 15 JUL 2012
1st Youth Olympic Games (athletics) 1c2 1.89 Singapore 22 AUG 2010
6th IAAF World Youth Championships 2 1.85 Bressanone 10 JUL 2009

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Updated 1 August 2017

 

Maria LASITSKENE (nee KUCHINA), Authorised Neutral Athlete / Russia (High Jump)  

Born 14 January 1993, Prokhladny (Kabardino-Balkar Republic)

Lives: Moscow / Prokhladny

1.80 m / 57 Kg

Coach: Gennadiy Gabrilyan

 

Maria Lasitskene has a distinctive jumper’s stature. She is tall and slim, has long legs. But who knows, how long it would have taken for a girl from the small city Prokhladny in the southern Russian region of Kabardino-Balkaria to find her way to athletics, if not for a bit of a luck. Lasitskene’s physical education teacher was also an athletics coach at a sports school. He singled Maria out and invited her to join his group. “I agreed right away, because I always loved PE lessons. I enjoyed running and jumping, and Gabrilyan’s lessons were never boring, as well as our training sessions. I remember how I cried every time I caught cold and wasn’t allowed to go to training,” smiled Lasitskene.

 

Maria’s specialisation in the high jump took place in 2001, but it wasn’t until 2008 that she realised that jumping was more than a hobby, it was starting to become a profession. That year the 15-year-old athlete won the Russian Youth Championships, clearing the bar at 1.83m, which is one centimetre higher than a “Master of Sports” standard in the Russian classification.

 

The following year, Lasitskene was selected to represent Russia at the IAAF World Youth Championships, in Bressanone. There, she jumped 1.85m and placed second behind another outstanding youngster, Italy’s Alessia Trost. It was the beginning of a constant rivalry. “I wasn’t upset about losing, it just meant that there was someone, who was stronger at that moment. Moreover, she was competing at home, everyone was cheering for her. I was already looking forward to competing against her in Moscow, at the European Youth Olympic Trials in 2010,” remembered Maria.

 

Spectators’ support always meant a lot for Lasitskene and helped her to excel in the sector. “Coach Gabrilyan used to joke, that I needed a judge’s table and stands full of spectators to jump high. It’s not that I love to show off, I am a pretty shy person. But in competition the attention helps, it keeps adrenaline flowing in and makes me want to perform at my best,” she explained.

 

The support of the home crowd did help Maria at the European Youth Olympic Trials, held in May 2010 in the “Luzhniki” Sports Complex. The event’s poster girl, Lasitskene was dominant, equalling her personal best of 1.90m, while Trost was six centimetres behind. At the Youth Olympics in Singapore, two months later, Lasitskene was stronger once again, taking the gold with a 1.89m clearance. Trost placed second with 1.86m.

 

One month after the victory in Singapore, Maria was dealing with major changes in her life. She moved to Volgograd to study at the Volgograd State Academy of Physical Culture and work under a new coach - Boris Gorkov, the one who led Yelena Slesarenko to her Athens 2004 Olympic gold (but wasn’t working with Slesarenko anymore, when he took over Maria’s training “I still work with both Gabrilyan and Gorkov, they both try to travel to my competitions. My coaches are extremely like-minded, so it works out well,” Maria said at the time.

 

Lasitskene’s junior campaign started with a bang. At her third competition of the 2011 indoor season, in Trinec, she improved her indoor personal best three times. The 18-year-old athlete cleared 1.92m and 1.94m from the first try and then jumped 1.97m in her second attempt to win the meet and set the World Indoor Junior best. The previous record (1.96m) belonged to Desislava Aleksandrova from Bulgaria and had stood since 1994.

 

Maria couldn’t repeat this performance at the European Indoor Championships, where she placed ninth in the qualification with 1.92m. “It was the first time ever I finished so far from the top-3. It was a disappointment. Unfortunately I didn’t have my coaches with me to give me technical advice in competition, I couldn’t deal with it on my own,” the athlete recalled.

 

But Maria had an important summer event to focus on - the European Junior Championships 2011 in Tallinn. In Estonia, Lasitskene left her rivals no chances, winning with a personal best of 1.95m. “It was my goal to set a personal best, and I did it. I knew I was a medal contender, but I was still very nervous in the sector,” she confessed.

 

In 2012, Maria once again won in Trinec with an impressive 1.96m, but third place at the National Indoor Trials didn’t allow her to make the team for the main event of the season - the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Istanbul.

 

For Lasitskene it was more important to get ready for the summer, as she had had the qualification for the London 2012 Olympics in mind for quite a long time. But on 21 March, during a training session, Maria injured her shoulder. For the next month and a half she kept working out, but couldn’t do any technical training sessions. It affected the whole outdoor season. Lasitskene placed seventh at the National Trials and only took bronze at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Barcelona with 1.88m. Trost, for the first time since 2009, was better than Maria, clearing 1.91m, and Lissa Labiche from Seychelles won silver on countback. “Jumping 1.88m at the World Championships is awful. I had no excuses, that injury and a little rain during the final - it’s just small things. I can only blame myself,” said the Russian in the mixed zone, fighting tears.

 

That year Lasitskene back returned to work exclusively with her first coach, Gabrilyan and works with him to this day.

 

In 2013, Maria only did one competition during the indoor season, but her best result and personal best was set indoors… in June. At the European Team Championships in Gateshead it was pouring with rain, so pole vaulters and high jumpers had to compete in a small indoor facility. This unexpected switch didn’t faze Maria and she won, clearing the bar at 1.98m. “This competition has a different format - you can only fail four times overall, so I was very careful at each height. I don’t know how I could preserve some energy for 1.98m, but I was very motivated. And I had my principal rival Trost in the sector. Before Gateshead we were even, 3-3, so I really wanted to win,” Maria recalled.

 

The next competition on Lasitskene’s agenda was the World Universiade in Kazan. There, Maria placed second behind Poland’s Kamila Licwinko, losing on countback with an outdoor personal best of 1.96m. At the Russian Championships, Lasitskene was fourth with 1.92m, losing on countback to Yelena Slesarenko, and missed out on a team berth for the Moscow 2013 World Championships.

 

Patience always pays off, and the 2014 season, was proof of this statement for Maria. It was the time for the Russian hopeful to blossom: to claim a permanent place in the world’s elite and start to feel comfortable at a two-metre height.

 

Lasitskene’s indoor campaign 2014 started on 16 January at the Lukashevich memorial in Chelyabinsk, where Maria won with a personal best of 2.00m, beating runner-up Oksana Starostina by 11 centimetres. Given the fact that Olympic champion Anna Chicherova and World champion Svetlana Shkolina weren’t competing indoors, Maria turned into a potential team leader for the World Indoor Championships in Sopot, as well being as the World Leader.

 

In February she further improved her personal best in Stockholm (2.01m) and won her first Russian senior title, jumping 1.94m in Moscow. “I was so happy to win the Russian Championships for the first time! I also had some decent attempts at 2.02m there, but the competition was held in the morning, so I had a hard time with execution. There were many heights cleared on the second attempt, something to work on before Sopot,” she admitted.

 

The World Indoors were eventful for the young Russian. First major senior event, and first time stepping into the sector as the World Leader. Not the most comfortable feeling, but something to start getting used to… “I do feel the pressure. It doesn’t help, but my coach always tells me, that it should be this way: I should enter the arena feeling as a leader, and make my rivals try and get me,” Lasitskene explains.

 

In Sopot, Maria soared above the bar at 2.00m in her first attempt. So did the home favourite, Kamila Licwinko. Both the Russian and the Pole couldn’t clear 2.02m. With the same “track record” of failures at previous heights, they were sharing the first place and all other competitors were already out, but Maria looked disappointed and lost for a few minutes. “I was so sure I lost. I didn’t watch Kamila’s jumps, so I thought she didn’t have any failures before 2.02m, while I did. Losing on countback is the worst feeling, and I experienced it before,” explained Lasitskene. “But then she came to me to ask if we would be doing a jump-off for the gold. Then it dawned on me, I declined the jump-off and it was the time to celebrate!” she smiles.

 

The newly crowned World Indoor champion was in demand for the Diamond League meetings from the very beginning of the season, and Lasitskene was taking this opportunity seriously. Fourth place at the Prefontaine Classic in her season opener, victory in Oslo, second place and her first outdoor 2.00m clearance in Paris. Add to this a confident victory at the European Team Championships in Germany, and once again Maria was approaching the main competition of the season – the Zürich 2014 European Championships - as the one to beat.

 

Maria opened her competition in the final early, at 1.85m, didn’t skip any heights and didn’t fail a single attempt until the bar was raised to 2.01m, one centimetre higher than her outdoor personal best. Her first attempt was almost perfect, but the bar didn’t stay in place. While the most titled competitor in the field, Spain’s Ruth Beitia, was successful from the first try, setting her season’s best. Maria couldn’t clear the bar in the last two attempts at 2.01m and had to settle for silver. She couldn’t hide her disappointment, but admitted that, most of all, it was Beitia’s amazing effort and experience that determined the final result.

 

Coach Gabrilyan was also content with his athlete’s performance: “It was the peak of our season, and she indeed showed her best jumping today. Maria indeed has the shortest approach in the field, just eight steps (determined by the training space she had in Prokhladny), but I don’t think we’re going to change the technique in the nearest future anyway.”

 

Just 11 days later, Lasitskene was back at the Letzigrund stadium in Zürich for the Diamond League final. This time, 21-year-old Maria cleared 2.00m, leaving Beitia in third place and capturing the Diamond League trophy.

 

“I knew I could win the trophy, but what mattered the most was to gain a victory in this arena and in pretty much the same company,” admitted Maria. “But in fact, I’m already over my defeat at the European Championships. And this Diamond League victory… I should move on as soon as possible, too,” she said in an interview for the R-Sport agency.

 

It was especially true, as Lasitskene had one more competition to take part in – the IAAF Continental Cup in Marrakech. The Russian was victorious again. “I wasn’t feeling overly tired or struggling during the last stint of competitions this season,” Maria admitted. “We planned this all along. My coach wanted to see how long I could maintain my shape.”

 

After just two weeks of vacation, Lasitskene started preparations for another busy season with four major competitions on the agenda: European Indoor Championships, European Team Championships, European U23 Championships and World Championships.

 

The first two on the list went smoothly, bringing two more gold medals to Maria’s collection. But the third one brought one of the biggest disappointments in her career. In Tallinn, the Russian couldn’t clear the bar at 1.81m, the height at which she would often start a competition.

 

“My coach and I, we changed something technically in training, coming into the Championships. And it led to this failure in competition,” said Maria. “But in the next practice after coming back, everything finally clicked, and I jumped 2.00 in Monaco just a couple of days later.”

 

This mishap aside, Lasitskene was approaching the World Championships Beijing 2015 as a strong medal contender. And don’t expect her to have Tallinn flashbacks at the Bird’s Nest. Mentally strong, the athlete is always taking it one competition at a time.

 

“If she fails an attempt, I tell her to not look back at it. Imagine a river, if it flows and there is a rapid on the way, the river just keeps flowing forward,” said coach Gabrilyan in an interview for the R-Sport agency.

 

At the World Championships Beijing 2015, Lasitskene defeated her more senior rivals - two-time former world champion Blanka Vlasic and Anna Chicherova - in a high-class final. A perfect record up to and including a personal best-equalling 2.01m earned the 22-year-old co-holder of the World indoor title the gold medal.

 

Maria finished her season with four more wins after Beijing including another 2.01m result at the IAAF Diamond League Final in Brussels.

 

Following her World Championships win, Lasitskene was among the leading hopefuls to win the Olympic title at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. However, her dreams were cut short in October 2015, when the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) Independent Commission carried out an investigation into the activities of the Russian Athletics Federation, the Moscow anti-doping laboratory, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) and the Russian sports ministry. The commission accused certain athletes and sports officials of doping abuse and involvement in other activities related to violations of international regulations on performance enhancing substances. Eventually, the IAAF decided to suspend RusAF’s membership in the global governing body of athletics and put forward a host of criteria, which the Russian ruling body of track and field sports was obliged to implement in order to restore its membership in the global federation.

 

Interestingly, in July 2016 at the Russian Cup in Zhukovskiy, Maria jumped a height of 2.00m - a height that would easily have won gold in Rio - only 2 hours after she learned that CAS upheld the decision to ban the RusAF from the Games and she would not be allowed to compete at the Olympics.

 

“I didn’t watch any of Rio 2016. But I was happy for Ruth Beitia when she won. I respect her a lot,” says Maria.

 

In April 2017, Lasitskene’s application to compete as a neutral athlete until Russia is reinstated was accepted and Maria was allowed to resume competition despite the federation's ban. “I don’t want to look back, because it’s impossible to change something there. That’s why I prefer to think about the future. I’m looking forward to the next couple of years. I’m sure they will be thrilling and fantastic. And I want to go all the way from London 2017 to Tokyo 2020,” she confessed.

 

Her first competition back was the third leg of the Diamond League in   Eugene. After 600 days of absence from the international level, Maria won the women's high jump with a personal best and world leading height of 2.03m. “Eugene was my first international competition since autumn 2015. I’ve been waiting for that moment for so long. It was like a new chapter for me. That’s why I was so excited. My life has changed a lot: I jumped 2.03m in February at the Russian Indoor Championships, got married in March, changed my surname in April and even changed my haircut in May. So this is the new me. But I’m still hungry for jumping and that’s the most important thing,” Maria admitted. Maria’s husband – Vladas Lasitskas, is Eurosport’s Russia tennis commentator.

 

“Our wedding day was really beautiful. We were in the castle not far away from my home town, Prokhladny, in the Kabardino-Balkar Republic. All our relatives and close friends were there. This is the day that I will remember for my whole life. Of course it’s a pity that the honeymoon was too short, just 10 days, but London is calling. It is the main goal for this season. I’m lucky that my husband is a sports journalist and he knows very well what it is to be an athlete. Now I'm living and training in two cities – Prokhladny and Moscow. I’m so thankful to my personal coach Gennadiy Gabrilyan, for understanding everything and making our life much easier. Moscow is a really big city and Prokhladny is not. So in the beginning it was a little bit hard for me to realise that now I need to waste around two hours to get to the CSKA stadium for training. But it’s ok already. These days I always have some music or a book with me,” she smiles.

 

The success in Eugene’s success was just the beginning of Maria’s perfect summer: 2.04 in Hengelo, 2.05 in Monaco and 2.06 at a Diamond League meet in Lausanne (new Diamond League record and just three centimetres off the World record set by Bulgaria's Stefka Kostadinova in 1987).

 

“There is a lot of talks about rewriting European and World records that were set before 2005. Stefka Kostadinova's high jump record of 2.09m was set at the World Championships in Rome. It was thirty years ago. I think it’s time to jump higher. It’s a really good way to solve this issue with the old records. Why not? Everything is possible. I believe that our generation can do it,” Lasitskene explains.

 

Maria has been in outstanding form since returning to international competition under a neutral banner. Now she is unbeaten in 24 events in a row (21 in 2017, 15 - this summer). She is the only woman to clear 2m during current outdoor season (11 times for the last two months). She has 11 Diamond League wins in her career, including all six meetings in 2017 (only Vlasic has more – 14).

 

Lasitskene gave credit for her performances to her “genius” coach, but her achievements also speak volumes for her innate competitiveness.

 

“I know nothing about the result that I should expect in London. I just want to jump with the best opponents and try my best. I want to defend my title and I’m glad that I have this opportunity. That’s it. Let’s wait and see, who is who,” summed up Maria.

 

Personal Best

2.06m (2017) / 2.03m indoor (2017)

 

Yearly Progression

2007: 1.73; 2008: 1.83; 2009: 1.87 (1.75i); 2010: 1.91 (1.80i); 2011: 1.95 (1.97i); 2012: 1.89 (1.96i); 2013: 1.96 (1.98i); 2014: 2.00 (2.01i); 2015: 2.01 (1.99i); 2016: 2.00 (1.98i); 2017: 2.06 (2.03i)

 

Career Highlights

2008    1st        Russian Youth Championships (Vladimir)                                  1.83

2009    2nd       World Youth Championships (Bressanone)                                1.85

2010    1st        European Youth Olympic Trials (Moscow)                                  1.90

2010    1st        Russian Youth Championships (Penza)                                      1.91

2010    1st        Youth Olympic Games (Singapore)                                           1.89

2011    1st        Russian Indoor Junior Championships (Saransk)                        1.83

2011    3rd        Russian Indoor Championships (Moscow)                                 1.87

2011    1st        Russian Junior Championships (Cheboksary)                             1.94

2011    1st        European Junior Championships (Tallinn)                                  1.95

2012    1st        Russian Indoor Junior Championships (Volgograd)                    1.86

2012    3rd        Russian Indoor Championships (Moscow)                                1.91

2012    1st        Russian Junior Championships (Cheboksary)                            1.89

2012    3rd        World Junior Championships (Barcelona)                                 1.88

2013    1st        European Team Championships (Gateshead)                            1.98

2013    2nd       World Universiade (Kazan)                                                      1.96

2014    1st        Russian Indoor Championships (Moscow)                                 1.94

2014    1st        World Indoor Championships (Sopot)                                       2.00

2014    1st        European Team Championships (Braunschweig)                       1.95

2014    1st        Russian Championships (Kazan)                                              1.92

2014    2nd       European Championships (Zürich)                                           1.99

2014    1st        Continental Cup (Marrakech)                                                  1.99

2015    1st        European Indoor Championships (Prague)                               1.99

2015    1st        European Team Championships (Cheboksary)                          1.99

2015    12th      European U23 Championships (Tallinn)                                   1.71 (1.82Q)

2015    1st        IAAF World Championships (Beijing)                                       2.01 (1.92Q

2017    1st        Russian Indoor Championships (Moscow)                                2.03

2017    1st        Russian Championships (Zhukovsky)                                      1.96

 

 Prepared by Elena Dyachkova and Vladas Lasitskas for the IAAF “Focus on Athletes” project. Copyright IAAF 2014-2017  

 

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